Fast swimmers are fast kickers. Here are 3 freestyle kick drills to level up your freestyle swimming.
There are fewer things more impressive than watching a swimmer with a powerful kick. The fluidity, power and flexibility come together to create a smooth, effortless performance.
Whether you are a distance swimmer or a sprinter a strong kick is essential for an efficient and powerful freestyle stroke. It promotes better body position, provides a measure of propulsion, and for you gallop-stroke freestylers it can help maintain speed between strokes.
Listed below are three versatile freestyle kick drills for you to add to your training. As with anything, start slowly, focusing on proper form and steadily progress in volume and intensity.
Do I have to use a kickboard for these kick drills?
The following drills can be done with a kickboard, or not.
If you have level 10 swimmer’s shoulder than putting your arms out in front of you for extended periods of time is pretty much the worst.
Another downside of using a kickboard? It limits hip rotation. That being said, good luck prying my big, ugly green kickboard out of my hands!
The following drills can be done with a snorkel in a streamline. With a kickboard. Or with your arms at your side. Adapt the drills to your goals, your conditioning levels and what you are currently capable of.
1. Single leg free kicking.
Kicking with a single leg has a couple magical benefits:
It emphasizes the up-kick.
With only one leg going you have to really focus on both the up and down phases of the kick. It discourages the lazy up-kick because you will notice a significant decrease in propulsion when you slack on the up-kick portion of your kick.
In order to motor along at a consistent pace and not be starting-and-stopping in the water you need to apply just as much force within both phases of the kick.
It emphasizes an engaged core.
Single leg kick also has the benefit of added core engagement. Keeping your non-working leg straight, as well as keeping your direction in the pool, requires you to engage that core of yours. And yes, core strength is important for swimmers.
I love routinely adding 1,000-1,500m of straight single leg kicking with fins on during my recovery sessions.
2. Vertical free kicking.
Vertical kicking is versatile, and can be used by the complete noob and the Olympic champ. It also doesn’t require a lap pool; all you need is a really tall bucket.
Anytime the local lap pool is a bubbling cauldron of swimmers I migrate over to the deep end and do some vertical kicking until either the lanes clear out or my legs are shot. Either way, great success!
Michael Phelps used vertical kicking (along with a 20lb weight belt on) in his preparation for the Beijing Games, doing rounds and rounds of :50 seconds, :10 seconds off to help strengthen his dolphin kick, but we can use it just as easily in order to improve our freestyle kick.
- Arm placement. If you are just starting out with vertical kicking, cross your arms in front of you like you are grumpy about something. (Resist the urge to scull with your hands.) When you get comfortable with that, put your arms out of the water in the “don’t shoot” posture. And finally, when you are ready to get serious, put your arms in a streamline.
- Max kicks in a set time period. The goal here is to increase overall leg speed and power. Throw on a pair of fins and for the first :20 seconds of each minute kick as fast as you can, counting the number of kicks you perform. Rest for the following :40 seconds. Do the set a couple times per week, trying to increase the number of kicks from week to week.
- Max resistance. Feeling brave? Throw on some DragSox over your fins, and a weight belt, and try doing the above set. Level 9000 kicking would mean you could throw on all that gear, and then kick vertically in a streamline position and keep your head out of the water.
- Vertical wall kicking. To greater emphasize a narrow kick (particularly you sprinty sprintersons), do vertical kick with your belly button a few inches away from the wall. You will have to kick with straightish, smaller kicks to avoid driving your knees into the pool wall. (Yes, this hurts.)
3. Mail-slot kick drill.
The top swimmers in the world kick fast and narrow. Most swimmers resort to a lazy scissor kick when they are swimming, with their legs having the tendency to drop and hang there, causing unnecessary drag.
A simple kicking drill you can use to improve foot speed in the water, steadily build that narrow kick, and build a kick that is relevant to your swimming, is to kick small and narrow.
I call it “mail slot” kicking, because the idea is to keep your body line so straight that if there was a mail slot hanging on the surface of the water you could kick your slim profile right through it.
The important keys to performing this drill correctly:
- Keep your feet under the water (a.k.a. “quiet” or no-bubble kick) and your butt up to simulate the same body position you want to have when swimming full stroke.
- Aim for a high RPM with your feet. The goal is to condition your feet to move really, really fast while in a narrow position.
- Engage your core! It’s almost impossible to move your feet quickly and with control without a firm core.
Improving your kick isn’t some sort of mystery, and isn’t something that is solely reserved for the top athletes in the sport. Like just about anything else in the pool, all it takes is consistent, focused effort.
Try these freestyle kick drills out the next time you hit the water and motor your way to faster swimming.
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